Festival Celebrating NI Playwright Headed For Belfast

Brian Friel, pic by Bobbie Hanvey

A NORTHERN Ireland playwright is to be celebrated in a cross-border festival at the end of this month.

Tyrone born Brian Friel, best known for his plays Dancing At Lughnasa and Philadelphia, Here I Come! will be honoured in a two-part festival dedicated to his career taking place in Belfast and Donegal.

The Lughnasa International Friel Festival, directed by Sean Doran, will be the first annual Festival to run between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The two part event will begin with Donegal, Welcome to Friel Country from August 20-26 and culminate in the second leg Belfast, Here I Come! running between August 26-3.

According to organisers at the heart of the festival programme will be a signature production of one of Brian Friel’s key plays, presented in both locations.

In the first year, it will be a brand new production of Dancing at Lughnasa, produced by the Lyric Theatre from August 26 to September 27 and directed by Annabelle Comyn.

Brian, now 86, said of the festival: “If you want a festival that is tame and conventional and mildly entertaining don’t ask Sean Doran to organise it.

“Witness his Beckett Festival in Enniskillen – it is wild and imaginative and creative and riveting. I have total confidence he’ll do the same with the Friel Festival.”

Sean Doran added that he hoped the “ambitious and varied programme will appeal to both residents and to tourists.”

Welcoming the festival were Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Arder Carson, Culture Minister Carál Nί Chuilίn and Irish President Michael D Higgins.

Meanwhile international support for the festival has come from President Bill Clinton, Founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States.

Having quoted Friel in speeches and a lifelong fan, Clinton said: “Friel’s work is an Irish treasure for the entire world. Although many of his plays are set in his small town of Ballybeg, the themes and issues explored in them – identity, family, and conflict – have a universal appeal.

“It is his extraordinary understanding of people, their motivations and their dreams, and their sense of themselves and others that keeps pulling us back to Friel again and again.”

For more information and full festival programme for the Lughnasa International Friel Festival running from August 20-31 between Belfast and Donegal log onto www.lughnasainternationalfrielfestival.com

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Tina Calder
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